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In his book ‘Winners And How They Succeed’, former government communications chief Alistair Campbell sets out the method he uses for getting what he wants.
His system is based around ‘Objective – Strategy – Tactics’ and it’s one we can all follow.
‘Objective’ is the main outcome, the goal, the thing you want.
For example, ‘to win the football match’, ‘to get a particular job’, ‘to reach a specific weight’.
The strategy is a very simple, broad equation, perhaps consisting of only 2 simple components but it’s important you don’t overlook this.
For example, in football, ‘keep possession and score more goals than the other side’.
For health and fitness, ‘eat less, exercise more’.
And then the tactics, under each element of the strategy could be ‘join the gym, stop having takeaways on Friday nights, walk to work’ and so on.
The tactics are likely to change from time to time but the strategy and the objective would largely be set.
This method allows you to see at a glance the big picture – the overall principle, how you’re going to get the result you want – as well as the individual elements, the tactics.. the work you do on the ground, some of which might work, some of which won’t and you can change things around but still operating within the same strategy.
2 football managers might have completely conflicting tactics but totally agree on strategy.
Most people miss out ‘strategy’ all together and fail to properly break down their objective into simple component parts. So they never properly understand what it’s going to take to achieve the goal. If you don’t get the strategy straight, the tactics become undisciplined, random ideas, and you can’t be sure they’re contributing to getting what you want.
Something else to keep in mind with goal setting is the fact that you can only control your own actions.
You go for a job and have no idea who the other candidates are and what they’re doing. You can’t be sure the recruiter hasn’t already decided on a favourite. Winning a football match becomes tougher if your best player gets injured in the first 5 minutes, a perfectly good goal is disallowed or someone on the opposing team cheats.
A good tactician would be able to adapt of course but it still might not be enough.
So we should have a mixture of outcome goals and process goals, to allow for the fact while doing the right things can help achieve the outcome we want, we can never be certain and doing all the right things but missing the target should still count as success on some level.
It’s easy to think about this with sport so we’ll look at that first.
My goal this year is to swim 100 metres freestyle in under 1 minute 5 seconds. Last year’s goal was under 1 minute 10. I hit that and my best time now stands at 1 minute 7.6.
So 1 minute 5 is my outcome goal.
The processes around that are my healthy eating and training regime.
So I’ll attend training a minimum of 3 times a week.
I’ll take part in at least 4 competitions this year.
I’ll be in bed, with the lights out, ready to sleep by 11pm each week night.
I’ll spend one hour a week doing yoga to increase my flexibility.
And so on.
In Alistair Campbell’s model these would be tactics.
But they’re also good examples of ‘process goals’.
And the idea is that if I follow the correct process, I give myself credit even if I miss the goal. These things SHOULD help me get what I want, but they might not. I could get injured. Or have a bad start in the race. If that was the case, I might make ‘spend 10 minutes practicing starts at the end of every training session’ a new process or tactic.
I’m not sure what you think about how best to reward ourselves when we hit a process goal. Is it just a warm glow of satisfaction, a pat on the back? Or do you go and buy yourself something you like? Which could become expensive, is it a slippery slope to reward yourself with chocolate for following a healthy eating programme? What do you do? It doesn’t need to be much and it’ll vary for everyone but some sort of recognition is important.
It becomes harder when we look at business. Or relationships.
But again, breaking things down into a small number of principles, and then perhaps a half dozen or so processes is the key.
So, the objective, or outcome goal is a profit figure. The strategy would be ‘spend less, earn more’ and the tactics and processes could be ‘sign 1 new client a month’, ‘attend business networking every week’, ‘include a picture with every Facebook post’, ‘file my expenses claim once a month and be sure not to miss anything out’.
People sometimes set goals and then sneer at the idea of writing them down.
They think it’s some kind of weak or desperate move to keep them motivated and they worry about this ‘goal’ taking over their lives. It’s not like that. The idea of writing things down and keeping it accessible is so that you can see at a glance what works and what doesn’t and change things that aren’t working or are no longer needed.Think of it like a map. It’s a way of making sure the little things you do every day are continuing to take you exactly where you want to go.
As you set out on this new year, it might be that where you want to go changes too. And that’s fine. Maybe you don’t know where you want to go. That’s fine too – why not set a goal – just pick anything – something you’d like to achieve before January is out. Not a big thing, just a simple, personal, everyday thing.
Articulate it, break it down to a simple 2 part equation and then develop a variety of tactics to support that. Write it down and try it and evaluate and tweak it as you go along. If the system works, think bigger and go through it again for bigger things you want.
Despite what some of the self help gurus might tell you, the universe couldn’t care less whether it ‘works for you’ or not.
But you can work for you.
And you can start right now.
I hope 2018 is a happy, healthy and successful one for you.